Entebbe, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Agriculture Minister Vincent Ssempijja has directed the National Agricultural Research Organization-NARO to institute an inquiry into the giveaway of land within Entebbe Botanical gardens.
The 40-hectare piece of land situated close to the National Agricultural Research Organization and Victoria Mall in Entebbe covers a 4-kilometre stretch along the shoreline of Lake Victoria. The gardens hold up to 400 plant species, among them medicinal trees with impressive flora and fauna suitable for hospitality, education and tourism.
However, several reports have been leased out to different private developers for personal use. Part of the land close to Victoria mall has been given out to Meghani Sikander, of Megha Industries on a 10-year lease to construct a treatment facility for wastes and sewerage generated from Victoria Mall.
The company has constructed a septic tank measuring five meters wide, eight meters long and 20 meters deep. It is situated just adjacent to the southern part of the Victoria Mall. Meghani Sikander the owner of Victoria Mall who was leased part of the gardens to construct the septic tank says the plan to construct the facility was approved by both the Municipal council in Entebbe and the National Agricultural Research Organization.
Sikander also indicated that the septic underwent an environmental impact assessment and would not damage the ecosystem.
Part of the land was given out for the construction of lodging facilities close to the shoreline of the lake. But Ssempijja says the leadership at NARO should explain circumstances under which the land was given out without clearance from the Ministry.
Entebbe municipal mayor Vincent Kayanja says the construction of the tank was approved by the Municipal Physical planner and is justified by the ever-increasing number of people disposing wastes from the commercial building. Victoria Mall had at inception constructed a septic tank which cannot readily accommodate wastes from the current number of people using the facility.
However, environmentalists led by David Kureeba, the Program Officer in Charge of Forestry and Biodiversity at the National Association of Professional Environmentalists-NAPE says such a move to utilize the botanical land, away from its required purpose is a threat to biodiversity.
“Where shall we find tree species for learning? We also need to look at the environmental impact assessment that gave clearance of such projects being instituted by Private developers on public, environmental and institutional land,” Kureeba says.
Charlotte Kemigisha, the Spokesperson of the National Agricultural Research Organization declined to comment on the matter when contacted by Uganda Radio Network and said that only the Director of the organization Ambrose Agona is mandated to speak on the matter.